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Reports taken from the Rhodesia Herald unless otherwise stated. - 23, 24, 25 January 1969


From Fred Cleary (Wednesday 22 January 1969)

Rhodesia's second innings batting display and consequent ten-wicket defeat at the hands of Transvaal at the Wanderers on Monday is as embarrassing to South African cricket circles as it is to the Rhodesian camp.

Everyone I have spoken to agrees it would be a bad thing for Rhodesia to be relegated to the B Section of the Currie Cup competition, but this collapse under pressure against good, but not hostile, bowling on a perfect batting wicket cannot have done our case any good. It is going to take convincing victories over North-Eastern Transvaal in the friendly match starting here on Thursday, and the final Cup match of the season against Eastern Province in Bulawayo early next month to bring respectability back to the team.

Even the Transvaal press agrees that Rhodesia should be kept up with the 'big boys', and sportswriters point to Colin Bland, Currie Cup record batsman Ray Gripper, Jack du Preez, and up and coming players John Traicos and Stuart Robertson as valuable men whose cricket will suffer if they go down.

No one likes the present 'yo-yo' promotion and relegation system. The Rand Daily Mail sports editor, Eric Litchfield, calls for a permanent A Section of five regular teams. This suggestion has some merit, although I ask what good will it do for cricket in other centres?

There is no doubt that the best cricketers in Southern Africa are centred in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Salisbury, but how will the smaller areas ever improve and how will the cricket gospel be spread if the leading players don't go to Kimberley, East London and Bloemfontein?

If these small towns are forced to play one another in the B Section with occasional visits from B teams from Natal and the Transvaal, the game will stagnate. The public will lose interest, and ambitious players will continue to emigrate to the Rand and large coastal cities.

I prefer to see one Currie Cup section again like the English county method. True, the obvious snag here is that a Transvaal combination such as that which just 'rolled' Rhodesia will massacre, say, Griquas, in probably a day and a half - initially.

But in time, as the smaller centres get more experience against the top sides and the Pollocks and Bachers play there regularly, more youngsters will be encouraged into the game, fewer will emigrate in search of places in already highly competitive areas, and the standard will level off appreciably.

Of course it will be argued that a one-league Currie Cup division would be financially disastrous with very few going to the Wanderers to see Transvaal play Griquas, and with the present provincial structure there would be too many matches to play if everyone played each other twice, which is the present arrangement.

The answer here is two-fold. Why doesn't the South African Cricket Association turn to sponsorship for financial assistance as do other sports like soccer, tennis, golf and horseracing?

Regarding the league competition, it is about time Free State and Griquas were told to amalgamate and Border joined Eastern Province. North-Eastern Transvaal looks like evaporating as a Currie Cup province anyhow, and it could be pointed out to these proud and conservative officials in the smaller areas that they would lose their identity for Currie Cup only, but retain their individuality for friendly games.

Turning to the friendly game against North-Easterns, Tony de Caila may return to wicket-keeping duties as his damaged left shoulder is responding well to treatment. Temporary and effective wicket-keeper Jono Clarke might thus be asked to stand down and enable John McPhun to play his only game on this leg of the tour.

McPhun looked good enough in Durban to warrant another trial for the number 2 berth, and as Clarke is not getting the runs the tour selectors could feel justified in omitting him. The team will be announced after practice tomorrow morning.

No one is taking this game lightly, and the 'friendly' tag is for record purposes only. Expect Colin Bland and his men to go all out to wipe away current blushes with some first-rate cricket. Nothing short of outright victory will suffice.


From Fred Cleary (Thursday 23 January 1969)

The Rhodesian cricket team to play North-Eastern Transvaal in their friendly match at Berea Park starting on Thursday has been delayed in the hope that Tony de Caila's damaged left shoulder will heal in time. He has been having treatment for the shoulder since Friday night when he felt sharp pain and had difficulty doing up his shoe laces.

De Caila saw a specialist this morning and was told he might be out of action for ten days to three weeks, but the tour selectors have decided to delay their selection anyway. Assuming that de Caila doesn't play - then Jono Clarke will continue keeping wicket, the job he did so admirably in Johannesburg when de Caila broke down.

The Rhodesian team was unable to have a full practice this morning as the Berea Park nets had not been prepared properly, but an hour's easy workout was enough to reveal that Colin Bland is seeing the ball well and is in a mood that could spell trouble for the home bowlers - even Springbok seamers Jackie Botten and Mike Macaulay.

Bland has fully recovered from his left leg injuries sustained in the earlier tour matches against Eastern Province and Natal, and he showed at the Wanderers that he is back at his superb best in the field.

With no points from five Currie Cup matches, and still smarting from that disgraceful second innings performance and subsequent ten-wicket defeat at the hands of Transvaal, the Rhodesian players are not taking this friendly game against North-Easterns in any light manner.

There may be problems in the home camp's domestic affairs and the Springbok wicket-keeper/batsman Denis Lindsay may not be available, but Jim Pressdee, the former Glamorgan all-rounder, returns to lead a team that is flush with confidence after a 52-run victory over Transvaal B the other day, and will be anxious to catch Bland and his men while they are in a losing streak.

North-Easterns will bank on a relatively powerful batting combination, and experienced seam from Botten and Macaulay. Opening batsman Mike de Villiers took 64 and 42 off Transvaal, while the home team's best batsman is attractive strokemaker Chris Dey, who helped himself to a fine 114 in the same match.

Trevor Rolfe, Graham Funston and Jackie Botten also made runs in that game, and with the experienced Pressdee now back after a leg injury to give the team the leadership that has earned him quite a reputation in these climes in recent seasons, North-Easterns might well give Rhodesia a harder fight than many might think.

North-Easterns have little experienced spin apart from Pressdee's slow left-arm deliveries. The off-spinners Alistoun and Funston may have trouble against the Rhodesian batting, so the wicket has been well grassed and this game would well follow the pattern of other matches this season and be dominated by seamers. However, Rhodesia's Springbok leg-spinner Jack du Preez bowled so well in Johannesburg that he could still be a real threat.

Rhodesia should win comfortably, but after recent events, predictions of this nature may be somewhat foolish.


From Fred Cleary (Friday 26 January 1969)

Relaxing slightly from the pressure and tension of A Section Currie Cup cricket, Rhodesia found the going harder than expected when they started their three-day friendly game against North-Eastern Transvaal at Berea Park here today. They allowed the home team to amass a more than useful 298 runs and then lost the wicket of opening batsman Jono Clarke in the last over of the day.

Along with Ray Gripper, Clarke had been content to laze along and score 50 in an hour and a quarter this afternoon, thus reducing the deficit to 248, when he was out at 27. He tried to hook former Springbok left-arm seamer Mike Macaulay, got an edge and was easily held behind the wicket by wicket-keeper Chalmers.

Hooking so late in the day after both men has wisely decided earlier to wait until Friday morning before chasing the runs was foolish, and Clarke is going to have to score heavily in the second innings to be confident of retaining his place for the final Currie Cup match of the season in Bulawayo against Eastern Province early next month.

However, this opening stand of 50 was the best between himself and Gripper all season and only bettered by Gripper and McPhun 55 - in the first innings against Natal. Now McPhun is pushing hard to regain the number two berth.

The North-Eastern batsmen took advantage of an easy-paced wicket, rough outfield which somewhat hindered the fielding, and two vital dropped catches, to play intelligent forceful cricket to score their runs in 335 minutes. Former Surrey player Ian Finlay showed style and a penchant for spin bowling, and took his adopted team out of what might have been serious trouble this morning, when two wickets fell for only 36 runs.

He gave Gripper a hard chance with the third ball of the day off Parker and then rode his luck to stay at the wicket for 200 minutes and help himself to 90 handsome runs by way of 13 fours.

Finlay lost his opening partner de Villiers at 17 to a splendid juggling catch by Davison at second slip, and after Alistoun had been bowled by Parker at 36, Holmes joined the former county professional to put on 78 in 73 minutes for the third wicket.

Holmes went for 29, and Rhodesia dropped another important catch, this time du Preez failing to hold a difficult chance at leg-slip off Traicos, when Dey was at 12.

Dey and Finlay proceeded to hammer away at anything. Du Preez often looked jaded, and Traicos lost his length at first. But seamers Parker and Peck bowled well, the latter eventually finishing with four for 52 - his best performance so far on this tour.

Rhodesia broke through immediately after lunch and grabbed three wickets for 12 runs, including Finlay, who played a lazy shot into the covers where Davison dived, rolled over and did well to hold the ball off the grass.

Dey ran himself out when calling for a single after Funston had turned Traicos to McPhun at leg-slip, and it was left to Funston and Botten to consolidate once more and take the score along at a sensible rate, adding 56 in 63 minutes for the seventh wicket.

The tail-enders added useful runs and North-Easterns were all out at 4.35 p.m., leaving Rhodesia an hour and a quarter to chase a score which was far more than the Rhodesians anticipated.

When Gripper and Clarke began chasing the home total, the wicket was still easy-paced and neither man looked in trouble, although Gripper survived one confident appeal for a catch behind off Macaulay.

Then came Clarke's rash shot, which only added to his unhappiness after allowing 23 byes through today. He is standing in for the injured wicket-keeper Tony de Caila whose damaged left shoulder is failing to respond to treatment.


From Fred Cleary (Saturday 25 January 1969)

Rhodesia played thoroughly bad cricket today against North-Eastern Transvaal, and if they get beaten in this friendly cricket match at Berea Park they will only have themselves to blame.

Their remaining reputation all but evaporated today under a hot sun, and any pretensions of A Section status will be laughable unless Rhodesia can do the near impossible on the last day tomorrow and beat the B Section team that has no claim to more than workmanlike standards.

Rhodesia were bundled out for 234 runs today in reply to the North-Eastern first innings total of 298. And when I report that four good wickets fell after lunch for only nine runs in 35 minutes on an easy-paced wicket, you will realise how shocking the Rhodesian batsmen were.

Only a fighting 46 by Colin Bland, and a brilliant run-out by Brian Davison of North-Eastern's opening batsman de Villiers, gave the visitors any real satisfaction on this long and hot summer's day. Even then, de Villiers hit a splendid second innings 70 against ragged and tired bowling, and often dispirited fielding.

North-Easterns were 164 for four at the close tonight, giving them an overall lead of 228 with six wickets in hand, and it just remains a case of when the home captain Jim Pressdee will declare in the morning and go for an outright victory he and his team richly deserve, after holding the whip hand for so much of this match.

Ironically, the early Rhodesia batsmen looked comfortable enough this morning, although the scoring rate was slow when the overnight batsmen carried on from 50 for one. Stuart Robertson hooked and drove with easy assurance and helped himself to five boundaries, before he jabbed at Becker and was easily caught behind by keeper Chalmers for 23.

Ray Gripper did allow himself to be bogged down while collecting 37 in 123 minutes, and then he was trapped leg-before by Botten, playing forward. Few umpires are prepared to give a decision today to a man playing forward, but umpire Hawkins raised his finger to the appeal without hesitation.

Then Funston got to work with his reasonable but by no means hostile off-spinners. He made the ball pop up at the Berea end and made one kick up off Carlstein's bat when the latter was shaping for a hook. Pressdee held an easy catch at leg slip.

Bland and McPhun set about retrieving the position for a while and, indeed, Bland raised his game to an interesting and promising tempo as he first hooked Botten for four and started to hammer the ball elegantly all round the ground.

Then this promising stand was broken when Funston got another ball to kick up off a wicket that apparently had wet patches, and McPhun also turned the ball into the Pressdee leg trap.

Could Jack du Preez play another one of his Horatio roles for Rhodesia? He came in at 20 minutes to lunch and immediately struck up a good understanding with Bland, and at lunch, with five down for 188, Rhodesia were still very much in the fight.

But 12 minutes after lunch the rot started. Bland (46) got a top edge while trying to loft a Pressdee slow left-arm delivery to midwicket and was easily held by Finlay. Parker was also a victim of the Pressdee-Funston leg trap, and Davison turned Pressdee straight into the expectant and willing hands of deep square leg Funston before he could score.

Du Preez had jogged along for a breezy 24 before he lost patience with Funston, rushed foolishly down the wicket and was easily stumped.

Then Peck and Traicos showed up the recognised batsmen by slamming 28 sensible runs for the last wicket. It was another unfortunate day behind the stumps for stand-in keeper Jono Clarke, who conceded 24 byes following his 23 in the first innings. He also dropped de Villiers at 61.


From Fred Cleary (Sunday Mail, 26 January 1969)

North-Eastern Transvaal beat Rhodesia by 10 runs at Berea Park today in a thrilling finish to an equally absorbing cricket match after setting Colin Bland and his men a most sporting challenge of scoring 330 runs to win this three-day friendly in 340 minutes.

Jim Pressdee, the former Glamorgan all-rounder and most enterprising home captain, led his men to victory in a dying sun but lasting glory with only eight balls left of the compulsory 20-over last hour session.

Rhodesia regained many friends today after their black Friday. They accepted the 300-run plus challenge gratefully and went after the runs in style. Brian Davison hit a superb and memorable whirlwind 50. Colin Bland scored an intelligent and forceful 54, while John McPhun, Stuart Robertson and Jack du Preez had all contributed to the cause with refreshing determination.

With Jackie Botten swinging his bat lustily for an entertaining 42, North-Easterns sailed along at a merry rate this morning and added 101 runs in 70 minutes for the loss of their remaining five wickets.

Ray Gripper suffered from an attack of food poisoning overnight so John McPhun opened the Rhodesians' innings with Jono Clarke. They scored slowly but firmly until Clarke misjudged a delivery from Pressdee and saw the ball nudge his leg stump.

McPhun and Robertson then played some most entertaining cricket against an all-slow attack, and McPhun stayed long enough to reach 58 by way of eight well-punched boundaries and a lofted six. He was beaten by Funston, losing sight of the ball and being bowled.

Carlstein did not stay, and then Robertson and Bland thrilled the small crowd with sensible and well-gathered shots around the wicket. The scoring was slow, however, and after Robertson had scored 47 silky runs he was bowled by Alistoun and it was left to Brian Davison to lift the run rate with the innings of the day.

After an indifferent time so far on tour with the bat and ball, this muscular all-rounder was promoted to see if he could find his touch - he did indeed. He lost the sole of a boot but not his heart, and in 30 balls and 14 scoring shots he hit 50 scorching runs. He went six, three, six, three, had tea and was then easily stumped off Pressdee.

Davison was all smiles and had done his job magnificently, but then three wickets fell for 13 runs and it looked good for North-Easterns again. Bland was splendid while hitting 54 before he slammed two successive scorching drives in a row off Pressdee before he was held in the covers at chest height by Finlay.

As 20 compulsory overs for the last hour were started, back came the seamers and 61 were needed. Du Preez breezed to 34 before falling and now it was left to Gripper and Traicos.

Traicos looked confident enough but wisely picked his runs with the care of a man walking through a minefield, and play went into 'extra time' with 21 balls left and 20 runs still needed.

Then when 11 runs were needed, Gripper was caught off Becker by Pressdee after adding 34 with Traicos in 43 minutes, and in came last man Noel Peck.

The excitement was terrific and Rhodesia could still do it. But with the fourth ball of the second-last over Becker won the game for North-Easterns as Traicos drove him into the covers and Funston juggled the ball like a hot potato and finally held it aloft in his right hand in triumph.


By Fred Cleary (Tuesday 28 January 1969)

Colin Bland and his Rhodesian cricket team flew back from South Africa on Sunday and into a welter of criticism. This was to be expected after this country's reputedly best cricket combination had concluded four Currie Cup and one friendly match so far this season without registering a single victory.

In fact, we were thrashed by a ten-wicket margin by Transvaal and by nine wickets by Eastern Province. Added to this, we went down - even though it was only by 10 runs - to a B Section team, North-Eastern Transvaal.

It would be unnatural if there were not disappointment and criticism levelled. But some of the suggested remedies smell of panic-thinking and should be disregarded.

It would be foolish, as one letter-writer has suggested, to so some wholesale sacking of the established senior men and bring in a crop of schoolboys who had done well in the recent Nuffield tournament, or other young players who are now making their way through the leagues. It is not appreciated that the A Section is of a tremendously high standard, and inexperienced men will be hopelessly lost.

By and large, the team Bland took to the coast and highveld represented our best available talent. The three national selectors - Alwyn Pichanick, Percy Mansell and Joe Partridge are not fools. They did not pick the team at random, but only after careful analysis and a study of performances over the early part of the season.

I am no selectorial mouthpiece and, in fact, I said at the time that batsman John McPhun was lucky to get another chance, and wicket-keeper/batsman Howie Gardiner should have been taken, if only as a batsman.

McPhun did vindicate his place in the last innings against North-Eastern Transvaal, and I still feel that Gardiner was missed. But to toss out men like Ray Gripper is just plain stupidity. And I know that when national convenor and recent tour manager Pichanick goes to Bulawayo this week to confer with his colleagues and select the team to play Eastern Province in the final match of the season, the team they come up with will contain the majority of players who failed over the last month.

If they are not good enough to win matches, then we must face the fact that Rhodesian cricket is not as strong as we would like and we must be patient until it builds up again.

As for the suggestion that selector and former Test seamer Partridge should come out of retirement and offer himself at 36 to play Easterns, I can only say that this would be a most retrograde step. First of all, the Queens pitch must be prepared for our two best bowlers, spinners jack du Preez and John Traicos. There should be little or no grass on the pitch when Graeme Pollock and his team fly north.

Many will not like this attitude, and say it is not the done thing. That might have been the case in the past, but today A Section Currie Cup cricket is played hard, and wherever the team travelled on tour there was an effort to prepare pitches to suit the home bowlers, and they were generally seamers.

So, we must accept the fact that we haven't any quality seamers and go for a slow spinners' track. Not only will we give du Preez and Traicos a chance, but we will also do much to nullify the best Province bowlers, Springbok Peter Pollock and Gordon Den and Sibley McAdam. So, what would be the use of recalling Partridge if groundsman Bobby Stiles is asked to give us a slow, turning track?

There is no doubt that our seamers did not measure up to the job on tour. Veteran Eddie Parker did at times produce spells of real hostility, calling on pace and moving the ball cunningly both ways. But his dangerous spells were fewer than his periods of slackness. So often he started an innings bowling way off line and giving opposing batsmen a chance to settle in. And that was a luxury our batsmen rarely encountered.

Roy McLoughlin started well in Port Elizabeth but was then seriously injured in the face while batting, after he had come up with four for 48.

So Noel Peck was brought up from the plains of the Bulawayo league, tossed on to the uplands of A Section cricket and asked to try to tumble a crack Natal side which included that superlative batsman Barry Richards, and several other men of the highest quality. Peck almost took fright as the Natal batsmen tore his honest deliveries apart at Kingsmead but, to his credit, he fought back and he also finished the tour with some creditable spells.

However, Peck will be the first to admit that he still has much to learn about seam bowling in the high society of the A Section and, as his fielding is still way below par, he might have to give way to another bowler for Eastern Province.

He is likely to be Riki Cameron, the most promising Salisbury seamer, who did so well in the recent Nuffield Week but who, alas, will surely follow the path of so much of our cricketing talent and go south for some years while studying for a career.

Jack du Preez did not produce any startling figures. Yet, as I said, wickets on tour were prepared for seamers. Another thing, du Preez, a leg-spinner, had to be used as a stock bowler. This is not cricket logic, but Bland had little option.

No wonder even the great-hearted du Preez was a jaded man in Pretoria after his marathon 37-over spell at the Wanderers. Fortunately, du Preez's batting suffered little, and he would still be my first choice for any Rhodesian team.

John Traicos had a fine tour. When the wicket gave assistance, such as at Berea Park, he produced the goods, and I rate him above Kelly Seymour, of Western Province, and Gavin Fairon, of Transvaal, as the best off-spinner on the subcontinent and the one most likely to be considered for England in 1970, politics permitting.

Along with our poor opening bowling, the team's other main weakness was opening batting. Only three times in 11 innings did the first-wicket pair reach 50 or better, which is a considerable handicap to any side battling to make the grade. Even Ray Gripper, one of the best technically equipped batsmen in the country, could only produce two good scores, 80 and 70. Jono Clarke's best effort was 54 against Natal, while in his two games John McPhun also had one half-century.

McPhun looked particularly good while scoring 58 against North-Easterns, and this innings may earn him a final opportunity against Eastern Province. Clarke is a battler, but he has yet to lift his game to the higher plane of the senior division after his successful debut in B Section last year.

Stuart Robertson's three half-centuries (59, 55 not out, 58) and 47 were scored in style and the number three berth is now his. Tony Pithey will be available for the Province match and, if selected, he could easily move down in the order.

The trouble is where? Peter Carlstein scored two half-centuries and failed at times when he was most needed. But his tenacious 99 in Durban and fine fielding should confirm his place.

Bland started the season with 82 and 53 not out against Natal in Salisbury, and although he did weigh in with fine knocks of 60, 47, 46 and 54, overall for a batsman of his world stature he was a disappointment. Like so many other members of the team he fell just as he looked settled in and ready for a really high score.

Brian Davison did not find a wicket fast enough for his off-cutters and failed with the bat until Pretoria. Then his dashing 50 restored his reputation and faith in himself.

Summing up, I would say that the selectors are limited in experienced talent available and will once more have to rely on the majority of the men who collectively may have failed this year but individually are still the country's best.


By Mr J R Gilchrist of Benoni (Saturday 1 February 1969)

Although I have not had the pleasure of watching the Rhodesian cricket team in action during their recent Currie Cup cricket match against Transvaal and the friendly against North-Eastern Transvaal I have heard such glowing reports from my friends and relatives, who were fortunate enough to watch them, that I feel someone should let your readers know how much the Transvaal cricket followers have enjoyed the entertaining and sporting displays.

The Rhodesian team has gone a long way to filling the vacuum left by the cancellation of the MCC tour. My son-in-law went so far as to say that thanks to the fare provided by the Rhodesians the cricketing public here have not lost a thing, because they have all the thrills of an international match with superb fielding, highlighted, of course, by the evergreen Colin Bland and Peter Carlstein, delightful and attacking stroke play and, above all, excellent sportsmanship.

They never once allowed the disappointment of too many hairline and sometimes dubious decisions that went against them to unsettle them or get their tails down. Although they have been unlucky enough not to win a match no one has been heard to say a derogatory word against their showing and everyone hopes that the cricketing administrators of the Currie Cup will find a way to keep Rhodesia in next year's A Section.

It is great to see that your lads know how to play the game for its enjoyment and sportsmanship above all else. What a pity we cannot say the same about politicians, especially those amongst whom the phrase, ``It's not cricket, old boy,'' is a household word.